The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I've long been a natural disaster afficianado, particularly when it comes to meterology, but a few more like this and I think I may have had enough. This afternoon I came across an uncannily prescient article describing New Orleans and the Big One. Google started me on the second page, and I read most of the way down before I figured out the article was written long before Katrina arrived.

My father volunteered to go down to Mississippi to represent his employer in relief efforts, so he is somewhere near Biloxi as I type. My employer (Southern Company, owner of Mississippi Power) may issue a call for people willing to head down at which point I'd likely be joining him. For the time being, try to send a few bucks to the Red Cross Hurricane 2005 fund or some other relief organization. Tonight I'll send half my poker winnings, so root for me. Pocket aces for hurricane relief, baby!

UPDATE: Bayou celebrates!
You know I'm automatic. Ten people sat down at the table in my living room tonight, but only one was playing for the kids (and using a karma-riffic Beau Rivage Biloxi chip as a card protector to boot). I battled all night, and at the end my cowboys held up against A2s for the championship. $20 to cover a buyin and a rebuy, $47 to buy three gallons of gas on the way to Columbus this weekend, and $47 for the kids.

I'm happy I won our game and get to brag a bit, but in all seriousness please remember the situation hundreds of thousands of our friends are facing right now. If you can spare some cash, they could really use the help.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cutting bait

Jim Hendry is doing one thing right- he has recognized that the Cubs have virtually no chance to make the playoffs now (around a tenth of a percent on the playoff-o-meter) and is making moves accordingly. Lawton was sent to the Yankees for Justin Berg. Todd Hollandsworth has now been dealt to Atlanta for Angelo Burrows and Todd Blackford. Kerry Wood has been shutdown for the season and will have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder tomorrow.

Ideally, Hendry would have realized where the Cubs stood before we reached this point. Heck, ideally he would have realized that Todd Hollandsworth ceased to be one of the twenty-five best options we had for a major league roster spot sometime in late spring. Furthermore, none of the prospects he has acquired has much potential of ever seeing a major league roster. Still, its better to make these moves and at least try to convert 2005's sunk costs into 2006's capital.

Cutting bait on 2005 is good, but the fact remains that the big fish is still flopping around stinking the joint up. Hendry has made some good personnel moves, probably more good than bad. If he cans Dusty I'm willing to give him another chance. If he won't... we're better off without either of them.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

You know the drill

I followed the game from work through Yarbage, and when I headed home we held a 1-0 lead and Mark Prior seeemed to be in complete control. Then I got whipped in tennis, then I returned to the internet to find we had lost 3-1, then I saw highlights of Aramis going down like an antelope made prey on Mutual of Omaha, and finally I busted out on the bubble in our weekly poker tournament. Good times!

Glendon Rusch against Jason Vargas tomorrow as the Marlins come to town for three. Although hope is pretty well buried at this point (playoff-o-meter somewhere below 1% when it gets updated today), one of the things that makes baseball special is that there is a long time between "probably over" and "absolutely positively irrevocably dead and gone." That makes autumn witherings like this awfully grueling. The upside is it allows for miraculous, life-affirming comebacks on occasion, or at least so fans of other franchises tell me.

Oh well, maybe the miracle starts tomorrow. Let's go Cubs.

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Monday, August 22, 2005


As August wears on and the Cubs show little sign of a resurrection, its becoming post mortem season. I'm listening to Pat and Ron drool over every potential free-agent on the Braves roster, and I've got to admit 2006 seems a more likely World Series date than later this year.

Discussion on a Cubs mailing list I subscribe to today concerned an article from the Daily Southtown in which Andy MacPhail reflected on his last eleven years in charge of the Cubs. A couple selected quotes:

I am very content with Jim, and I know he is very content with Dusty.

I'm confident the formula is going to get us there. Despite what appears now to be a hovering around .500 year, I'm confident we are going in the right direction.

In a vacuum, I would put very little in a vague vote of confidence like this. Obviously MacPhail isn't ready to make a move (since he hasn't as of this writing), and as long as he is not pulling the trigger I wouldn't expect him to publically undermine his employees. In a vacuum, I'd take these statements to mean MacPhail was probably terribly dissatisfied with the team's accomplishments the last two seasons but just didn't want to say so to a reporter.

The part that worries me is we aren't in a vacuum. We've got years, decades- arguably an entire century of evidence that the team's management is congenitally incapable of putting together a winning baseball team. I'd lay good odds that MacPhail meant what he said and said what he meant, and I fear that means we'll all be asking ourselves what went wrong for many Augusts to come.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Always look on the bright side of life

If Brian's fellow hanger-abouts could sing cheery songs in the situation they were in, so can I. This weekend's sweep at the hands of the Mets marks another new low in a season that has had more than its share. It culminated in Sunday's game when our one reliable pitcher couldn't even be relied on to defeat his Bizzaro namesake Victor. The Playoff-o-meter is down to 3%, a new low for the season and yet a value that, truth be told, sounds insanely optimistic.

As this team looks towards next year, its not without strengths. There is pitching talent, two star hitters in their primes, and a handful of promising young position players ready to break onto the scene. Its going to take some succesful moves from Mr. Hendry to make it happen though, and the first needs to be severing ties with Dusty Baker. He has always made lousy tactical and player-selection decisions, but the arguement in his favor has been that he has an ability to get more out of his teams than their talent would suggest. Unfortunately, that talent never existed or else he lost it sometime in between Game Six and today. The nicest thing I can say about him after three years is he is an improvement on Don Baylor, and that's not a rosy enough resume to keep him around.

Will Hendry have the courage to pull the trigger? I have no idea. In fact, I can't even be sure he sees Dusty as a problem. Still, if the Cubs limp through the last two months playing the way they played the last week, public pressure should mount to the point where Hendry will have to at least consider making a move. I'm not quite at the point where I can bring myself to actively root for the Cubs to lose, but I can't help but notice the upside.

So if Jose Macias and the Cubs greet the dreadful Reds pitching staff with swinging strikeouts and weak groundouts tonight, don't feel like chewing on gristle. Don't grumble- give a whistle! Every pathetic loss is one step closer to a new boss. Always look on the bright side of life!

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Friday, August 05, 2005

It hasn't stopped

Contrary to my colleague's assertion/hope/plea in the title of yesterday's post, the Cubs lost again yesterday, missing an opportunity to pick up a game on the division-leading Cards and wildcard-leading Astros and plunging the Playoff-o-meter to its lowest point of the season at 5%. This time the main culprit was the once reliable Mark Prior, who gave up three homers to push his season total to a career-high 17 homers allowed. There were other villains of course, but I doubt anyone is eager to hear about them.

Today's cause for faint hope is focused on the return of Messrs Wood and Garciaparra, and Scott Williamson's first appearance on the major league roster. Of course, on the downside, Jerry Hairston is seriously injured, Garciaparra has a .404 pre-injury OPS and a 3-13 West Tennessee rehab stint to show for 2005, Wood isn't deemed healthy enough to even attempt to start, even Derrek Lee is coming back to earth a bit, and even if this team somehow beyond all reason managed to mount a historic comeback and get back in the race, Dusty would just throw Zambrano 224 pitches to blow it in the end anyway.

I am truly sorry for the negativity. In all honesty, I do believe there remains an outside chance for this years Cubs. Baseball's a funny game, and sometimes when you least expect it miracles do occur. I think right about now its accurate to say I couldn't expect a comeback much less, so why not?

Today we get our dynamic young lefty Rich Hill against the Mets' crafty elder lefty Tom Glavine. May fortune favor the young.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This has got to stop

Warning this is going to be sort of a rant. I probably should wait and post this in the morning when thoughts and emotions will be clearer, but I just cannot stand this anymore. For two seasons, the Cubs have had enough talent to contend for at least the wild card. For two seasons, they have underperformed due to not only injuries - which no one can control - but also being one of the dumber teams in the game.

Tonight's game just brought this point to the forefront again. With 1 out and bases loaded in the ninth. Weurtz struck out Burrell and the ball got a little past Barrett. He picked it up and realized that Rollins was in a pickle between home and third. OK, remember back to Little League, what is the first rule as a defense in a the runner back.

I was taught from the time I was 10 to never throw behind a runner. Barrett decided to make a 100 foot throw off balance with Rollins half way down the line. Ramirez' return throw never had a chance and the Cubs lost on a walk off steal of home. Just when you think a major league team cannot invent another way to lose a game, they surprise.

Also in the game the Cubs pitchers did not cover first base on a ground ball hit to the right side an astounding three times. I am not sure other major league teams would have this happen three times in a week let alone the same game. Of course this is the Cubs, a team that balks in runs, cannot score in innings when the first two men double, get picked off bases regularily, get doubled off base regularily. When teams fight the injury bug and desperately try to tread water, they cannot afford to lose games by not being fundamentally sound.

What happens now

Well, I imagine in the paper tomorrow Dusty will say something to the effect that hee enjoys the fight of his team, or something was unclear or some other excuse like the 2-2 pitch to Burrell should have been strike 3. Bottom line this team just does not look prepared to play good solid baseball. In the end this is a reflection upon the manager. Sure, players make mistakes, but the buck has to stop somewhere. Dusty is a player's manager probably because he does not take them to task in the papers - a decent trait. But, he has to rule the ship behind closed doors and I am not sure this is happening.

I think the bottom line is that Dusty is just not the man for this team. They have the talent and the young core to make some noise for season's to come, but this man just does not have the guts to play young players and is too stubborn to change.

Twice in the last week, Dusty has left pitchers in too long not only possibly costing his team the game, but the health of those pitchers. He refuses to put Ramirez behind Lee when facing righties leading to a large jump in Lee's IBB in the last two weeks - a pattern that will not change. He forced Hendry to trade for Lawton to get Hollandsworth on the bench. I could go on and on about his other strategic directives and it could all be debated. The point that cannot be debated is what I said earlier - for the last two seasons, the Cubs have not been a smart, fundamentally sound team. When this continues, the manager has to be blamed. If he will not teach a young team - who will?

Hobbling Bloggers

Long time readers know the story of how Scott was involved in an accident a few years back that made him endure a few leg surgeries. While, I have not been stricken as bad as he was, I can now join the club of those who have spent considerable time on crutches. I play basketball on Saturday mornings to try and stay in some sort of shape. Last week, I landed on someone's foot and managed to break and dislocate my right ankle. My toes were aligned vertically rather than the standare horizontal for a few hours before the ER doc popped it back into place.

It looks like I got lucky and will not require surgery to repair the ligament damage. I will be a hard cast for a few weeks and then hopefully moving to a walking cast in the near future. My softball season is done though. I did manage to get the week off of work, so I get to watch the getaway game tomorrow in Philadelphia. I would put some weak ending line here about needing a win or having to keep pace, but this season is over. This team does not have the manager to get hot and contend. I guess we just hope they finish above .500.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005